By EMILY RAMSEY
CONTINUED EXPANSION: Topeca Coffee Brand Manager Mitchell Murry and Co-Owner Margarita Gaberino stand in Heirloom Baking Co., 1441 S. Quaker Ave., which opened in December. The bakery features fresh-baked breads, pastries, and gluten-free and vegan options.
EMILY RAMSEY for GTR Newspapers
Although Topeca Coffee may be a well-known name to many Tulsans, not everyone may realize just how far this local company reaches, literally.
John and Margarita Gaberino formed Topeca as a way to play a role in the long coffee-growing history of Margarita’s family, who own a plantation in El Salvador.
After the couple met and married, they returned to Tulsa, John’s hometown, and, in 2000, began selling the already-processed coffee that was grown and processed at the family plantation. John would then sell the coffee to local companies. It wasn’t long before he recognized, though, that the coffee maintained its quality better if it was roasted at its final destination.
Long before downtown saw evening and weekend foot traffic and before the Mayo Hotel had undergone renovations, John chose to locate his roastery next to the hotel, at 111 W. 5th St., which later became the site of Topeca’s first storefront.
“John wanted to be a part of downtown growth and bring attention and support to downtown,” says Brand Manager Mitchell Murry.
Once the roastery turned into a coffee shop, the regular visitors of the hotel provided Topeca a stream of customers, making up for the lack of downtown business people during the weekends and after-work hours.
As the company grew, the roasting facility moved from downtown to south of downtown to its current location just north of Interstate 244, where free monthly tours and cupping sessions are held. Reservations can be made at topecacoffee.com.
Today, Topeca roasts to order five days a week and ships and distributes coffee throughout the state and the country. It has also received superior ratings for its coffees from coffeereview.com and the Good Food Awards.
Yet, the Gaberinos were not content to remain in their coffee boundaries. John and Margarita expanded with a wine and coffee bar, Hodges Bend, in February 2013.
For John, the connection was obvious. “Cocktails, wines and coffee go hand in hand,” says Murry. And the shop’s location in the East Village fit seamlessly into John’s vision of an around-the-clock establishment. “East Village fit the descriptor of what we wanted to convey with our shop: a unique, artsy, niche-y area, offering something different for every customer.”
The diverse and “collective community”—as Murry terms it—was not the main reason, though, for opening Hodges Bend.
For the Gaberinos, gaining complete control over what they sell played a major role in their move into new—albeit, similar—markets. That endeavor became even more evident with Topeca’s next venture: Heirloom Baking Co, 1441 S. Quaker Ave.
Heirloom opened in December and offers fresh bread daily, sandwiches made with the fresh bread, pastries and other sweets, and gluten-free and vegan items, including vegan soups, which “taste really good,” Murry says. “People have a pre-conceived idea of what vegan tastes like. This is not it.”
Tim Fitzgerald, Heirloom’s in-house chef, has worked all over the world and is in the process of becoming a Master Sommelier.
As Topeca’s name becomes even more widely known, Murry expects to see further expansion and partnerships in the future. Currently, Topeca provides coffee to Kaffé Bona, 4785 A E. 91st St., and it plans to make a special coffee as part of Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey’s 20th anniversary.
A coffee shop, specifically Hodges Bend, may even, one day, show up in South Tulsa, hints Murry.
“People tell us, ‘We need you in South Tulsa,’” he says. “We would love to have a piece of Topeca in South Tulsa, love to be a part of that community.”